Many conservatives, Tea Party folks and Christians have mixed feelings about the GOP takeover of the US Senate yesterday.
Not that it happened - it's progress in a certain way, and it's great that it's a repudiation of the Obama agenda. But how it happened - the candidates we won with and how they got there - has been a matter of concern.
I recently published a book about how conservatives can get our party back. The party of Ronald Reagan, a sincere and well-meaning conservative who I think did his best to govern according to his philosophy.
He was also the modern president who most tried to inform his governing with his faith and with moral ethics. He was the most pro-life president, supporting a Human Life Amendment, very similar to what we now know as Personhood.
In my book, How To Train Your Politician, I describe the tension and friction between two groups. The conservative wing of the GOP, somewhat equivalent to what we call the Tea Party, and the Establishment wing, better known for its moderate policies and concentration on helping their buddies in big business.
Most of the key victories in the Senate last night were Establishment candidates to a greater or lesser degree. Even Joni Ernst. Even Cory Gardner. Most had defeated more conservative candidates in the primary.
In my book I explain the concept of "Intentional Voting" - I like to call it also "Don't Vote for Squishy." Basically I explain how it hurts the conservative cause when we vote for the lesser of two evils rather than voting our values.
But I also describe the concept of "Gateway Issues." It's all well and fine to try to nominate the candidate closest to your views and philosophy in the primary (ideally someone electable too, though you shouldn't compromise deeply set values in favor of electability). But we're not always going to get our first choice.
Morality does not require us to find a perfect candidate. Simply one who is not fundamentally flawed in his or her agenda. That's where you must choose your gateway issues - a litmus test. What must (or must not) a candidate believe for you to vote for them in good conscience? If a candidate doesn't meet that minimum requirement, they're just not good enough to vote for.
For me, my top gateway issue is life. The candidate must be unwilling to endorse the murder of any unborn children for any reason (abortion is never necessary to save a mother's life - I explain that in my book).
These winning Senate candidates aren't perfect candidates. They're certainly not as conservative as I'd like. But there's good news on the life issue for many of them.
In the discussion below I use four categories to describe their relationship to the concept of human Personhood. Essentially it's a belief that every innocent human being has a natural right to life and freedom that it's the government's responsibility to protect. This protects humans of any age, born or unborn, from slavery, murder or abortion. It's what Reagan was talking about.
To fully understand Personhood, which was the relevant and ultimately successful strategy behind the abolition of slavery, you must understand that laws either treat human beings as people or as property. Slavery treated human beings as property. Roe v Wade treats unborn children as the mother's property. Sadly, most well-intentioned efforts to regulate both slavery and abortion have reinforced the concept of people as property.
The categories are "S" for Solid, "O" for Open to Personhood, "P" for Possibly Persuadable, and "R" for Rejects the concept of human Personhood.
Also keep in mind these evaluations are at odds with what you might hear from National Right to Life or LifeNews.com. They bandy the term "pro-life" about lightly, handing it out to gobs of candidates, including those like Sen. John McCain who was pro-choice all his life until he needed pro-lifers' votes in 2008, and who still didn't hold a legitimately pro-life view then.
"S" - Solid candidates understand the Personhood concept fully and have the courage to vote accordingly. None of the winning candidates or current Senators are in this category - they're all willing to compromise (often in all sincerity) by treating the unborn as property. The only member of Congress I'm aware of who fits in this category is Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA) who ran for US Senate this year but lost in the primary to David Perdue.
"O" - Open candidates have expressed some level of commitment to Personhood, whether a verbal endorsement, a vote in favor, or a tacit recognition that abortion is always wrong, even if they haven't used the term Personhood to describe their own view (Personhood is a familiar term in Colorado, Mississippi, Georgia, the Dakotas and a few other places - less familiar in others).
There's good news here!
Keep in mind some of these candidates overcame more conservative candidates in the primary and have been seen as more Establishment candidates. In some cases maybe their opponents deserved the seat more and would have been better representatives. But let's look at what we got and understand what we got isn't as bad as we might think.
Note: Each of these "O" candidates are said to "oppose all abortions," meaning without exception. Technically most or all of these candidates do express an exception "to save the life of the mother," but as I explain in my book that's an unnecessary exception since abortion is never necessary to save the life of the mother (it's safest to treat mother and child both as patients and deliver the child in an attempt to save the lives of both). I mention this technicality here and not in each specific case below.
Sen-Elect Joni Ernst (R-IA): In a primary against more conservative candidates she courted the Tea Party and tried to change her image. Is her change sincere or not? We won't know until she starts voting. But she took the step of expressly endorsing a Personhood amendment, which is a significant step. She opposes all abortions.
Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC): The first Black Senator to be elected in the South since Reconstruction (having already served a partial term) is one of 21 cosponsors of the Life At Conception Act, which isn't perfect but is essentially an attempt at federal Personhood legislation. He opposes all abortions.
Sen-Elect Tom Cotton (R-AR): As a Representative he cosponsored the House version of the Life At Conception Act (federal Personhood). He opposes all abortions.
Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS): He has a long record as an Establishment candidate, and he defeated a more conservative candidate in the primary. But his pro-life record has stood strong. He opposes all abortions. He's also a cosponsor of the Life At Conception Act.
Bill Cassidy (R-LA): He hasn't been elected yet but he came away with one of two spots in the December runoff and it's relatively likely he'll beat Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) by picking up some of the votes that went to more conservative Rob Maness (R-LA) in the Nov. 4 primary (it's a Louisiana thing). Few pro-lifers would doubt Maness would have been more solid but according to the Louisiana Family Forum Cassidy opposes all abortions.
Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS): He won a bitter primary against a more conservative opponent who supported Personhood. I cannot find anything specific to say Cochran also supports Personhood - he may, and probably has, and I just can't find it - but it appears that Cochran does oppose all abortions. He's also a cosponsor of the Life At Conception Act.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC): He is also a cosponsor of the Life At Conception Act. He opposes all abortions.
Sen-Elect Mike Rounds (R-SD): Rounds also defeated other candidates who were probably more solid on life issues. Nevertheless, it appears to me there are few politicians who have more to brag about in the life arena. As South Dakota's Governor, in 2006, Rounds signed into law a total ban on surgical abortions (which was then repealed by popular vote later that year). Critics will note that he vetoed a previous attempt to ban abortion, but I'm willing to give some grace as candidates gradually embrace total and unconditional respect for the unborn.
Sen-Elect James Lankford (R-OK): Lankford won a special election to take the seat previously held by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK). He left a Baptist student ministry in 2010 to run for Congress. He opposes all abortions, and even produced an anti-abortion video that's too good not to share.
Sen-Elect Ben Sasse (R-NE): Sasse opposes all abortions. He has a good YouTube video too.
Sen-Elect Steve Daines (R-MT): Daines opposes all abortions and is a cosponsor of the Life At Conception Act in the House.
Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK): Inhofe has a long history of supporting the Life At Conception Act and previous versions of bills meant to accomplish the same things (some of these earlier versions were true federal Personhood without complicating language). He opposes all abortions.
Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY): Enzi opposes all abortions and is a cosponsor of the Life At Conception Act.
Sen. James Risch (R-ID): Risch opposes all abortions and is a cosponsor of the Life At Conception Act.
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL): Sessions opposes all abortions and is a cosponsor of the Life At Conception Act.
That's 15 Senators elected or re-elected yesterday who oppose all abortions. I can't promise all of them will embrace Personhood, but there's a good chance of it, given the reaction I've seen to Personhood from other sincere pro-life politicians.
Of these 15, five of them replaced pro-abortion Democrats (Pryor, Harkin, Walsh, Johnson, and I'm presuming Landrieu), so we're at least 5 up from the last Senate.
In total, I have identified approximately 33 Senators who will be in office in January who are likely supporters of Personhood.
"P" candidates are Possibly Persuadable. These are candidates who have made outward expressions at being "pro-life" but they don't qualify under the Personhood litmus test. Many have stated they oppose abortion except in cases of rape or incest (which means they would impose the death penalty upon an innocent unborn child for the crime of the rapist). But my experience says if these candidates are pressured to change their position, or if they're approached in the right way to show them a different way to look at rape/incest exceptions, maybe half of them will change their mind. Which half? That remains to be seen. In the 2012 Presidential Primary, Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX), for example, had always held rape/incest exceptions (as have most Republicans who were in office in previous decades). But when he was confronted with a good argument that compassion for the raped woman shouldn't mean death for her child, he changed his position and endorsed Personhood. Others will too.
Obviously, I'm not as excited about this set of GOP victors as I was about those listed above. They represent challenges, and potential obstacles to legislation that would treat unborn children as Persons under the law. But the news isn't all bad.
Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY): The current Minority Leader won a hard-fought primary against a more conservative challenger who would have made alot of us more happy than having to deal with "rubber spine" McConnell. He supports rape/incest exceptions, but he does otherwise have a pro-life record. He's supported many anti-abortion regulations which treat the unborn as property, but have been recommended by many pro-life groups as "the right thing to do" to save lives (this belief is refuted in my book). McConnell is particularly keen on a Pain Capable Act which would ban abortions after 20 weeks, and which is discussed at the end of this article.
Sen-Elect Cory Gardner (R-CO): Cory Gardner was a rising star in the Personhood movement, and seemed like he had potential to bring a Personhood mindset to Washington. He even took the extraordinary step of attending a legislative briefing on Personhood while running for Congress (where it was explained that Personhood cannot affect "contraceptives" or any form of birth control that doesn't kill an already conceived child). Unfortunately, when he was hand-picked by McConnell and Karl Rove to be Colorado's candidate for the US Senate he renounced Personhood and said he had come to believe it was an "extreme" measure that would "ban contraceptives." He spent millions of dollars on television to advertise to Colorado voters (700,000 of whom supported Personhood this November - probably 3/4 of those who voted for him) that Personhood was extreme, but he wasn't like those extremists. It's not 100% clear, but it appeared that he told the Denver Post that he supported abortions for rape and incest. Would he come back into the fold? Who knows - he's gone back on his word before.
Sen-Elect Dan Sullivan (R-AK): Sullivan is another "pro-life with exceptions" candidate (we call them "pro-abortion with exceptions"). He supports abortions for rape or incest.
Sen-Elect David Perdue (R-GA): Perdue beat out other more pro-life candidates in the primary, at least some of whom were Personhood supporters. He is "pro-life with exceptions for rape and incest." He does support the aforementioned Pain Capable legislation which isn't as good as it sounds.
Sen-Elect Thom Tillis (R-NC): Tillis is "pro-life with exceptions for rape and incest." (Note: One Personhood article seemed to indicate Tillis supports Personhood. I cannot find any evidence for this. One article says he believes states have the right to ban forms of birth control, but the article indicated neither that he supported such a position nor that he had renounced his support for some abortions).
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN): Alexander has long been part of the anti-abortion regulatory culture in Washington, but he's long held to rape/incest exceptions.
Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX): I couldn't establish for sure that he holds to rape/incest exceptions but I'm reasonably sure. If you have better information, please let me know in a comment. He supports the Pain Capable legislation.
It now appears that Ed Gillespie (R-VA) did not win his bid to unseat Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA). A recount will occur. Gillespie supports rape/incest exceptions.
The good news - besides that these new senators might become pro-life in time - is that three pro-abortion Democrats are no longer there (Sens. Mark Begich, Mark Udall, Kay Hagan).
"R" candidates Reject the humanity of the unborn. They do see the unborn as property and are officially pro-abortion (they say "pro-choice"), or some might claim to be pro-life but have nothing to show for it. The only good thing to say about this is there are few pro-abortion Republicans these days, compared to days past when it was relatively normal. Up to 2/3 of Republicans in many chambers across the country were pro-abortion - 1/3 in many places you'd think would be pro-life. The mood is changing, nationwide and in Washington.
Sen-Elect Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV): Capito has long been associated with and endorsed by Republicans for Choice, a pro-abortion PAC. She is pro-abortion.
Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME): Collins has long been the Republican senator voted most wanted to go away. She's been worse than Sen. Arlen Specter (R/D-PA), before or after his defection to the Democrats. She is pro-abortion.
The Republican Establishment "rah-rah" crowd was keen to get Fmr. Sen. Scott Brown elected in New Hampshire. Some pro-life groups have bent into pretzels trying to portray him as pro-life, but it doesn't really make any sense. He's pretty much pro-abortion down the line, with a few outlying votes. We're better off without him.
There's also Dr. Monica Wehby (R-OR) - she never had a realistic chance to win, but she was outspokenly pro-abortion and she was a bad example for the GOP. It's fortunate she didn't do better than she did. She would have had FoxNews Republicans cheering for her, like they did for Brown, and it would have undermined the movement.
So there you have it. Even when you take into account the number of Establishment Republicans who defeated Tea Party (usually more pro-life) Republicans in the primaries, it appears that things are improving in Washington from a Personhood perspective. Is Personhood likely to come to a vote any time soon? No. There's alot of groundwork in the states and among the public to be done first. But we're making progress - don't doubt that!
On that note, consider that Amendment 67 in Colorado was the 3rd Personhood Amendment considered by Colorado voters. They mock us because we keep running this amendment, and it keeps getting defeated. But we're accomplishing what we want. It offers an opportunity to broadcast to the public through every media channel that unborn children are human beings deserving of rights. They wouldn't otherwise hear that - we are a cash-poor movement, and the free media is a Godsend.
Polls show only 12% of Americans in 2008 supported a total ban on abortion, but in that year Colorado's Personhood Amendment got 27% of the vote. Now, in 2014, polls show 17% of Americans support a total ban on abortion - a number which has benefited by many Personhood efforts around the country, as well as the public debate over Hobby Lobby's refusal to provide abortifacients in its healthcare plans - and in 2014 36% of Colorado voters supported a Personhood Amendment! We're making progress.
Before I sound like I'm being all rosy about the prospects of a pro-life future in a Republican controlled Senate, I offer this heartclenching prediction.
If Sen. Mitch McConnell remains head of the Republicans in the Senate, he has said that he will push for and pass the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. Since no member of the Senate is listed as "Solid" above, none of these people fully understand why Personhood is the only strategy that will actually help unborn children, and why regulations reinforce the impression of the unborn as property. Therefore, any other Senate leader would probably do the same, and probably no senator is going to object.
This legislation is more "big talk, little effect" like the 2007 Partial Birth Abortion Ban which didn't ban a single abortion (and even allowed partial birth abortions to continue to this day, modified very slightly from how they were done in the past). The main reason it exists is to give pro-life voters something to salivate about while at the same time representing little risk to candidates and they can use it to call themselves "pro-life" even if the rest of their record is questionable.
And Pain Capable legislation sets up a false value differential, making it look like the older an unborn child is - or the more one looks like a baby - the more human they are. Educated pro-lifers realize this is a false (nay, dangerous!) contrast. It perpetuates the Roe v Wade style argument that age or viability or the acquisition of certain abilities is what determines whether someone is deserving of rights. Personhood recognizes that every innocent human being is deserving of rights by virtue of their being human.
Lastly, I simply want to say that this blog post is the result of 12-15 hours of hard research work, but is nevertheless cursory. It's entirely possible I've been unfair to some of the candidates above, or "too fair" to others. If you have additional information or corrections to offer me, please leave a comment.
Thank you! Please pray for the continued spreading of the Personhood concept, and that the US Senate will someday embrace the humanity and protect the rights of every unborn child.